Faith and Doubting
Dear old and new friends,
The four stories of Nazareth’s Teacher-Rabbi are called the Gospels, from the old English Godspell meaning “Good News.” But honestly wouldn’t we say that some of his teachings are definitely not good news? Perhaps they are good for angels, but for us ordinary humans some of them are just too difficult to keep in our modern society, so we don’t observe them. If you obey “You shall love your enemies” or “Offer no resistance to one who is evil,” you can’t support waging war for even a just cause in defense of your homeland.
He also said about our little domestic wars, “If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” And the early church’s rule in Ephesians 4:26, “Do not let the sun set on your anger,” challenges many family disputes that continue to last for days or longer. As for forgiving, granting pardon to someone who has betrayed your love and trust may be the hardest. If you are interested in more of his difficult teachings on how to live read Matthew 5: verses 21-48.
Yet the Gospels also have many beautiful teachings, and people have among them their favorite(s)…pause to recall yours. My personal choice of the superlative good news is Matthew 28:17! Only six words long, it is the account of the eleven disciples on the Galilean mountain of the ascension where Jesus had told them to go, and when saw him, “They worshipped him, but they doubted!” What amazingly powerful six words, especially the last three, “but they doubted!” They are the most healing and encouraging of all the good news since hasn’t each of us at some time both worshipped and doubted?
For doubt, Matthew uses the Greek word “Distazo” that carries the idea of standing in two places at the same time or of having two minds simultaneously. One mind states firmly a belief you were taught in childhood, while your other mind skeptically questions whether it is really true today? Typically we resolve the conflict by smothering one voice, and like the disciples, we worship but we doubt. Concerning faith and doubt, there’s an old geriatric joke that’s rich in truth: “It takes more faith to believe that the tissue paper communion wafer is bread, than it is to believe it is the Body of Christ!”
When grey clouds of doubt overshadow your religious experiences, don’t worry you’re losing your faith. To resolve doubting or questioning issues of your faith requires patience. It is similar to loving another, which in the earliest stages of love can be accompanied by doubts that question its validity. Like God, love is invisible; so it’s impossible to be weighed or measured. We are naturally skeptical if we are loveable as our examples of those who are come from Hollywood and the fashion world’s high standards of beauty. So it is natural to wonder, question the genuineness of another’s affection for us. However, I assure you that after 30 or 40 years of experiencing being loved in all circumstances, and in devotedly loving the other, you can have undaunted assurance that you are loved.